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What Does It Mean to Be Emo?

Updated on January 6, 2020
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Emo Boy
Emo Boy | Source

A Culture Beyond Definition

Search on any online dictionary for the word "emo" and it will be extremely hard to find a single definition. Maybe that's the whole point. What is Emo? Emo simply can't be defined; it is a music genre, a way of dressing, a lifestyle, a persona and, above all, a personality! For those dedicated followers of all things "emo" its appeal lies very much in its obscurity.

The Birth of Emo

Some of you are, perhaps, are not only concerned with the question "What is emo?" but are also interested in where this word actually came from. Whilst emo is no longer a term-limited to the music industry, it certainly has its roots in all things punk. "Emotive/Emotional Hardcore" is a term that is commonly attributed to an 80s band named the "Rites of Spring," whose use of emotion during their performances departed from the typical hardcore D.C Punk pieces of the era. For a music scene that was traditionally associated with aggressive and destructive behaviors, such displays of emotion and self-expression required the creation of a new genre term. The word emo was born to describe this latest form of music; punk with feeling. While it should be noted that Rites of Spring themselves deny any association with this term and its ensuing mini-movement, it has indeed been frequently used to describe their music, thus explaining why they have been identified as the founders.

What is Emo beyond Music?

The word emo has evolved to be much more than a music genre. People don't just listen to emo; they dress, talk, act and even think emo! For the people who follow this movement, it isn't something they want to be, nor is it a label; it is simply something that they are. The people who follow emo trends tend to choose similar styles of dress and appearance, (tight black clothes, messenger bags, and long sweeping fringes) their style is very much focused on individuality and unique personality.

In today's press, the word emo is utilized to describe anything associated with open, direct displays of self-expression or emotion. Unfortunately, in some circles it has developed negative connotations with depression, self-harming and suicidal behaviors. However, one must question the logic of this. If encouraging teenagers to express their emotions openly is causing such angst, one dreads to think what impact suppressing them would have! The reality is that emo is simply a youth culture (the average emo follower is between 14 and 23), which encompasses individuals who use clothes, music, and hairstyles to explicitly portray their innermost feelings and personality.

What is The Future of Emo?

Some people believe that emo as a popular trend is coming to an end, slowly being replaced by "scene" which is being heralded as a less emotional and self-pitying version of emo. For others though, emo is what they are, it is part of their individuality and etched in their hearts. For these people, emo is forever.

I hope this answers the question of "What is Emo?"

Your Essential Guide to the Emo Boy

Beware The Emo Boy:

Although often misunderstood, the Emo Boy is extremely common in today's society. Here's the essential guide on everything you need to know about this mysterious species. Take heed though, if you find one you may just fall in love!

Emo Boy Origins:

Emo Boys are thought to have originated from the Washington D.C area during the punk revolution. Short for "emotional", meaning sensitive, the Emo Boy is descendent of the hardcore punks of the eighties period. Unlike his ancestors, this breed has a straighter edge, generally abstaining from drugs and alcohol and instead choosing to concentrate on artistic pastimes and activities.

Species and Temperament:

Highly attractive to girls, Emo Boys are constantly in demand and are the subject of many crushes and fantasies.

Exceedingly emotional, the Emo Boy is very artistic and expresses plenty of his emotions through poetry, music or art. This species is very open with his feelings and will not hesitate to declare undying love to the object of his desire. This tactile and loving nature leads to a high level of popularity with both the emo and none emo female breeds.

Despite his reputation for winning the hearts of the opposite sex, Emo Boy does experience problems with the female of the species, the Emo Girl, and this can lead to difficult behavior. Such conduct is usually manifested by sulking or sustained periods of solitary activities.

Where Spotted:

Emo Boys are usually found in large groups of emos and they mix well, although their position in the pack is occasionally challenged by the none emo population. Favorite haunts include mainstream coffee shops, shopping malls, game arcades, and emo concerts.

Emo Boys also like to spend a great deal of time sifting through the clothes at thrift stores attempting to find retro t-shirts and sweaters which will complete their emo look.

This particular species is extremely easy to spot. Keep on the lookout for horn-rimmed glasses, tight clothes and Converse trainers or Doc Martins. The hair is another dominant feature. It is generally jet back with spiked edges and styled carefully in order to obscure the face.


Prettier than the average teenage boy, Emo Boy is extremely style and image-conscious and therefore requires significant grooming. The Emo Boy's hair is of particular importance to this species and a great deal of time and effort is required to achieve the desired emo style.

Besides the hair, Emo Boy utilizes a number of other techniques to attract a mate. These include vibrant splashes of color, piercings, dark eye makeup, and black nail polish.

Another favorite of the Emo Boy is his tight-fitting clothes. A mixture of drainpipe jeans, undersize t-shirts, messenger bags, and hoodies are worn. These are usually of a black color although occasional splashes of bright colors and motifs have been observed.


The emo boy is generally tall and skinny, a physique that is needed to pull off the tight clothes.

So there you have it, a definitive guide to Emo Boys! Let now take a look the essential emo girl.

Your Essential Guide to the Emo Girl

Desire The Emo Girl

The Emo Girl; a slightly misunderstood species that appears to be on the increase. Here is our low down on this fascinating group, where to find them, how to spot them and, perhaps most importantly of all, how to keep them happy!


The Emo Girl is generally aged between 14 and 25 and is believed to have evolved from the gothic and punk chicks of the eighties and early nineties. Whilst music is undoubtedly a huge influence in the Emo Girl's life, their persona extends beyond a simple music genre to a way of being, dressing, and thinking.

Emo Girl is highly emotionally charged but makes no apologies for this. Self-reflection and introspection are a crucial belief system of this breed, and their need for emotional fulfillment influences their every choice.

The Emo Girl likes all things black but manages to combine a dark appearance with graceful femininity. Popular with the Emo Boy, Emo Girls tend to have an affinity with other emotionally charged individuals.

Quite often described as "Straight Edged", in most cases, this species refrains from drugs and alcohol, instead of getting their kicks out of listening to music, writing poetry and engaging in other pastimes that feed their interest in self-expression.

Beware: Many Emo Girls do not like to be called Emo Girls!

Where Spotted:

Emo Girls tend to feel most secure with other Emo Girls and Boys. They are generally found wandering around malls, hanging out in-game arcades or attending emo concerts. Largely uninterested in the cheerleader way of life, they avoid jocks and will not be seen anywhere near the sports field.

Emo chat rooms are another popular hangout location, here Emo Girls can be generally be found masquerading under names such as "I Heart Your Face", "BR8 My Heart" or "hunted-by-a-freak".


Shy and mysterious on the surface, Emo Girls appear to hide behind their long bangs and thick-rimmed glasses. However, in reality, they are very open creatures who are comfortable sharing their innermost feelings with anyone who is prepared to listen. Generally very intelligent, Emo girls are extremely philosophical and enjoy indulging in matters of the heart. Although this can occasionally make them weepy and melancholic it is all part of being Emo and is an important element of their personality.


Emo Girl is extremely image-conscious and generally opts for punk/gothic-inspired fashion. Their hair will generally be black or dark brown although, in some cases, extremely light blonde varieties can be found.

Each Emo Girl is unique and injects their own personality into their clothes and style. This may manifest itself in a carefully placed badge, pin or an injection of neon onto an otherwise black canvas of tight dark jeans and slogan t-shirts.

Weight And Height:

Often accused of being anorexic, Emo girls do tend to be extremely slender. However, this may be a result of their none meat-eating habits and, in some cases, veganism.

So there we have it. The Emo Girl! Let's see if you know what it takes to be the quintessential Emo. Try my quiz below!

Emo Quiz

Test your knowledge of all things Emo with our “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” style quiz. Unfortunately with our version, you don’t win any money but why not try it anyway… how many points can you score?

Who Wants To Be An Emo Expert?

view quiz statistics

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Jason Nicolosi


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    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      13 months ago from United Kingdom

      I've to say I'm embarrassed to admit all this time I thought emo was short for emotionally unbalanced. (cringing) I see now it is far from accurate. Thanks for setting me straight.

      This is a nice hub and I enjoyed reading it.


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